One of my favorite fashion quotes is a statement Lauren Hutton once made, she said: “Fashion is what we are given four times a year by designers and style is what we choose.” For so long I thought fashion and style were the same things, it took me reading this quote for the first time to realize they’re not. We get to choose whether we fill our closets with bold patterns and colors, things there modern and trending, or a little different such as bohemian or vintage. There are stores for whatever style you choose, but it is meaningless if the clothes are not accessible. The fashion industry has finally taken strides to rectify this in recent years, still more needs to be done. As a woman with a disability and a self-proclaimed fashion lover, there are factors that I wish the industry would take into consideration during the design process in order to create more inclusive fashion pieces for people with disabilities.
3 Factors I Wish The Fashion Industry Would Consider During The Design Process To Help People With Disabilities
- Style & Functionality
- Everybody Is Seated At Some Point
- A Little Change Can Make A Big Difference
Style and Functionality:
Style & Functionality. It sounds like such a novel concept, right? But it shouldn’t be, from rain and winter boots with amazing designs that keep us dry and warm respectively, style and functionality are just as common as everything else, except when you add in the phrase inclusive fashion.
When it comes to my outfits, I have to balance the things I like as a person and would love to wear with the practicality of wearing something in my wheelchair. For example, I’m not a fan of crop tops functionality-wise, but I love high-low tops, they fit with my style and they are longer in the back which is great if my jeans are low-rise or shift during a transfer process. It’s a simple difference, but it matters when I’m putting together my outfits. There are a few other fashion pieces I’d pick over others because of a simple change that already exists such as maxi dresses for formal occasions just so I’m not stuck wearing pants all the time or bodysuits with a snap button closure, I haven’t found one to fit my sense of style yet, but when I’m browsing online you better believe that’s the first thing I look for when I’m considering purchasing one.
Everybody Sits… Sometimes
I have a question. Why is it that when we are shopping, the models are standing for most of the photos? I mean yes we need to be able to see the aspects of the fit, but what about when we’re sitting? And don’t tell me that’s only an issue for people with disabilities because we all sit down, I just happen to spend the majority of my time that way. When you are sitting, how the fabric fits on your body changes a bit and I would love to know if I need to go up a size because it fits closer in some areas as well as be able to tell if a certain aspect of a top or dress is going to be hidden by the fact that I’m sitting down or my seatbelt.
This isn’t to say it never happens, one of my favorite boutiques has the models sitting for several of their shoe photos, but why does it have to be just shoes? I’d love it brands could create photos using a few different angles while the models were in seated positions for all pieces from tops to dresses to jeans and shoes because it would take some guesswork out of shopping and go a long way in making it an inclusive fashion brand.
Little Changes Make A Big Difference
A small change can make a huge difference to people with disabilities, the change may seem insignificant, but doing so creates so many options for us. For example, curb cuts, also known as those little dips on the sidewalk were put there to help us, but everyone uses them these days. These dips in the sidewalk are there, but we don’t think about it unless we don’t see one, then it becomes a problem, not a big deal for most people, but it is for us.
Adaptive/ Inclusive Fashion: When Tommy Hilfiger launched its adaptive line years ago, I was excited because it was a step in the right direction. The brand made small changes to the clothing such as Velcro attachments and magnetic closures to make putting on the clothes easier if you need it. Several other brands have made inclusive fashion an important part of their branding such as Aerie and Zappos. The small changes that the brands make to these products mean less help when getting dressed and more independence. Every aspect of our daily lives that we can do independently we want to, matters. Whether the change is big or small we take notice especially if it makes a brand easier to wear. We have enough difficult stuff to deal with make the brands inclusive and bring the fun back into for people with disabilities.
I’m personally not a huge fan of the adaptive part of the name of these lines. I’d rather come up with something creative to signify these fashion lines are geared to those of us with disabilities instead of using the word adaptive. Don’t get me wrong, adaptive has its place in the world when it comes to making things work for people with disabilities like me, but I don’t think it has a place in the fashion industry.
We’re halfway through Cerebral Palsy Awareness Month and one of the statements I kept reading over and over again when it comes to Cerebral Palsy is that there is still so much we don’t know so people don’t really know what to do with the people that have it. I feel like that’s a statement that can be applied to the disability community when talking about the rest of society especially in regards to certain aspects of life like work, fashion or dating, and having a family, but when it comes to fashion we’ve seen that style and functionality can and does work. As for the rest? A little change or willingness to listen to people with disabilities goes a long way.
Do you have thoughts on what the fashion industry should consider when making products for people with disabilities? Let me know in the comments.